It's gone now, but apparently there is still a bill to be paid in the demolition of the former Masonic Temple in the city of Dunkirk.
City Attorney Ron Szot informed Common Coun-cil's Finance Committee of the recent request for the payment of $65,000 and recounted the events leading to the expenditure during the fighting of the blaze that began Feb. 24, 2010.
"Because of the size and scope of the structure there needed to be some emergency, for lack of a better term, demolition work done on the building while it was on fire so the fire department could put it out, control it and then extinguish it totally. The building inspector and the fire department apparently concurred that there was this emergent nature and contracted with (Empire Building Diagnostics, Inc.) out of Buffalo to do certain work," Szot explained.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
City Attorney Ron Szot in-formed Common Council’s Finance Committee Mon-day the city may have to pay $65,000 for emergency demolition work performed during the February 2010 Masonic Temple fire.
"The work was done and the fire was put out. Subsequent to that, as you can see across the street, the entire building was removed. That's a separate issue. So this law firm is asking for about $65,000 that's 30 months old, that the city contracted for, in essence that they've never been paid."
According to Szot, the bill came with no warning.
"No one that I know has heard anything about it," he said.
"In the last handful of days I've been in contact with the law firm, told them don't do anything drastic right now," he stated. "We're trying to get our hands on what was going on from our end. One of the problems is there is essentially no documentation in the city attorney's office, the mayor's office, development office, fiscal affairs office, anywhere. There's a copy of an invoice that may or may not have been received at some point.
"Long story short, there's this potential liability that's somewhat significant out there."
Szot said he has asked the property owner if his insurance would cover the bill.
"As it is right now it's sort of an open issue. The best-case scenario, no harm no foul. Worst-case scenario, there's $65,000 that the city essentially contracted for, received services for, that's due and owed," he explained.
Third Ward Councilman Adelino Gonzalez asked if it wasn't an issue for the last administration and attorney.
"That's an issue for the city of Dunkirk, unfortunately. I mean the problem, from my understanding, like I said, there's really not a lot of files ... except in the building inspector's office. But he dealt more with the technical aspects as opposed to the financial aspects, if you will," Szot replied. "Everything seemed to have been done in the spirit it needed to be done - address the emergent nature of the fire. It was just closing the loop. There's a liability that's sitting out there. Let's address it, because it's an issue that may rear its ugly head, maybe sooner rather than later, maybe not at all.
"It's just the mayor wanted everyone to get some heads up on it."
Council members Stacy Szukala and Stephanie Kiyak both felt it was the property owner's responsibility.
Szot said he didn't want to get into the minutia as it was complex and nothing may come of the whole thing.
"The issue isn't removing the damaged structure, the issue was the ability for the fire department to fight the fire at that time, they couldn't do it," he continued. "It was demolition crewed to do work so they could actually fight, knock down, control and put out the fire. That's one issue and then at some period of time the fire's out and the complete demolition ... that's a second issue that goes more toward what you're thinking - my house is on fire, my house burnt down. It's going to be taken care of."
In response to a question, Szot said he has been trying to touch base with some attorneys he knows who have faced similar issues.
"We've been doing this a lot unfortunately, I seem to be bringing up long-standing issues that cost a lot of money ... and 30 months in the past is a long time for people to remember," he stated. "Like I said, maybe nothing will come of it. That would be my hope."'
Committee Chairman Michael Michalski asked if it was because the city "has deeper pockets."
"No, we asked them to do work," Szot replied.
Gonzalez wanted to know why it took so long to hear about the bill.
"That's an issue why there's an issue there,"Szot replied. "There's an issue, why isn't there one piece of paper in this entire building regarding probably the most significant event of 2010?"
City Treasurer Mark Woods said the city has not received invoices.
Kiyak said Szot could tell council why they should be on the hook for the bill, but in her opinion the building owner should be the one paying.
"That is a good point," Szot replied. "I'm a business, I receive a purchase order signed by the fiscal affairs officer of the city and the mayor of the city. I do the services that are being asked of me. I pretty much think the city of Dunkirk has obligated itself to pay my bill."
Szukala again said there was no choice in the matter and it should fall on the owner but Szot replied there was just so much insurance the owner had.
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